It was a day for burning up the record books at the Gabba as Alastair
Cook and Jonathan Trott produced a herculean unbroken stand of 329 to
secure a comfortable draw for England. Cook scored his maiden double
century and Trott hit his second hundred against Australia, making it
the first time England's top three had scored Ashes tons, before Andrew
Strauss declared at a mind-boggling 1 for 517 which left Australia to
face 41 overs.
There was never a realistic chance of a result, but England wanted to try and secure further psychological points ahead of Adelaide. Stuart Broad, wicketless in the first innings, made an early breakthrough when Simon Katich edged to slip however, Ricky Ponting but two days of fielding frustration behind him to notch a brisk half-century as he and Shane Watson batted out there remainder of the match and lift Australia's spirits a little. It had been a sobering time in the field, as they claimed a single wicket in 26 overs.
While Cook and Trott extended a stand that was already worth 121 overnight it was difficult to keep up with each new landmark. On a personal level, Cook's 200 came from 306 balls while Trott's elegant, composed hundred took 213 and his was an innings studded with wonderful driving. In 2005, Cook cracked a double hundred against the touring Australians but that wasn't a first-class match and this innings left his previous Test-best of 173, made against Bangladesh at Chittagong, well behind.
In a mark of what Cook achieved he also broke a record held by Don Bradman for the highest individual score at the Gabba, while his match aggregate bettered that of Matthew Hayden in the 2002-03 Ashes encounter. Trott, meanwhile, continued the prolific start to his Test career and made it two second-innings hundreds in two Tests against Australia following his debut ton at The Oval.
The partnership rattled through the records. It became the highest for England against Australia and banished the Mike Hussey-Brad Haddin alliance to second place for any stand at Brisbane less than two days after it was set. They finished as the fifth highest score before the loss of a second wicket and comfortably England's highest. For the England fans, who far outnumbered the locals on the final day, it will have been the performance of Ashes dreams.
England began the day knowing they weren't out of danger despite yesterday's heroics and there were more than a few mentions of what happened in Adelaide four years ago. However, this time there was no Shane Warne to spin the batsmen into submission. Instead, Cook and Trott continued as they had done the previous evening by scoring at a rapid pace against unthreatening bowling and by lunch it was just a question of how many overs England wanted at demoralised opponents.
Cook's first boundary of the day was an edge through the slips - very similar to 24 hours previously - and he had another stroke of fortune when he under-edged a pull over his stumps. As with Hussey, though, a batsman who fights hard deserves a little bit of help. Trott, meanwhile, got his day going with a brace of boundaries off Peter Siddle and it soon became clear more toil was ahead for Australia.
Ponting set fairly defensive fields and a number of edges flew through gaps in the slips, but Australia couldn't even take the one chance that came their when Michael Clarke dropped a sitter at slip when Trott, on 75, tried to guide Watson to third man. Ponting just continued to chew his gum and the home side were deflated.
Mitchell Johnson, meanwhile, went through a horrid spell to give his confidence another pounding. He tried over and round the wicket to both batsmen, but his match was summed up when he sprayed a terrible bouncer miles down the leg side against Trott which flew for five wides. Johnson ended wicketless in a Test for the first time and faced a nervous wait to see what his immediate future held.
England teams have been through years of pain in Australia, and especially at the Gabba, and the two batsmen were on no mood to let up. Both batsmen start to open their shoulders; Cook used his feet against the spinners while Trott continued to show his sweet straight driving. Even when Doherty found turn from the footmarks two deliveries beat Brad Haddin for four byes.
Australia thought they'd finally broken through at 1 for 457 when Cook chipped Doherty to short midwicket, where Ponting dived forward for the catch, but the celebration was so low-key that Cook stood his ground and it went to the TV umpire. As so often, the cameras added doubt although it appeared Ponting had got his fingers under the ball and he was angered when the decision was ruled not out.
Just to add to Ponting's pain, he then spilled a tough late chance at slip and when England passed 500 courtesy of four more byes all he could offer was a gentle clap and strained smile. Ponting, though, has determination in bucket loads and was desperate not to hand England his wicket during the final session.
The quick bowlers tried to pepper him with short balls, and Finn struck his helmet, but the pitch was too docile to cause major concerns. James Anderson, meanwhile, had plenty to say to both batsmen and had to be spoken to by Aleem Dar. Graeme Swann was denied a confidence-boosting scalp when Paul Collingwood spilled Watson at slip in what proved to be the last significant chance they created. Ponting sped to a 40-ball half-century to ease his tension a little.
At the start of the final hour Strauss approached his opposite number and two captains shook on a draw but, once again, the final outcome doesn't reflect the drama of the five days. Battle will be resumed in Adelaide, on Friday, where it's unlikely to be any easier for the bowlers.